Plans for Rural Development
After the budget presentation, the dialogue with all the stakeholders today is very important in itself towards the implementation of the budget announcements. Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas, Sabka Vishwas and Sabka Prayas are the basic foundation stones of our government’s policies and actions. Today’s theme — “Leaving no citizen behind” — originated from this sutra. The resolutions that we have taken for the ‘Amrit Kal’ of freedom can only be realized by the efforts of all. Everyone’s effort is possible only when there will be development for all, when every person, every class, every region will get the full benefits of development. Therefore, we have been making continuous efforts to increase the potential of every citizen and every region of the country in the last seven years. This is the purpose of the schemes to connect the rural and poor of the country with basic facilities like pucca houses, toilets, gas, electricity, water, roads, etc. The country has also found great success through these schemes. But now is the time for the saturation of these schemes, to achieve their 100% goals. For this, we will have to adopt a new strategy. New systems will have to be developed for monitoring and accountability by making full use of technology. We have to put in all our strength.
The government has drawn a clear roadmap in this year’s budget to achieve this huge goal of saturation. Necessary provision has been made in the budget for every such scheme like the PM Awas Yojana, Gramin Sadak Yojana, Jal Jeevan Mission, connectivity of North East and broadband connectivity of villages. This is part of efforts to move towards saturation of facilities in rural areas, the border areas of the North East and aspirational districts. The Vibrant Village Program announced in the budget is very important for the development of our border villages. The Prime Minister’s Development Initiative for North East Region i.e. PM-DIVINE will go a long way in ensuring 100% benefit of development plans in the North East within the time frame.
Proper demarcation of property is very necessary for the development of villages. The Swamitva Yojana is proving to be very helpful. So far, more than 40 lakh property cards have been issued under this scheme. A national system for the registration of land records and a unique land identification PIN would be a great advantage. We have to ensure that the common villager is less dependent on the revenue department. The need of the hour is to integrate solutions related to digitization and demarcation of land records with modern technology. I believe that the development of villages will get a lot of momentum if all the state governments work within the time limit. These are reforms that will accelerate the pace of infrastructure projects in the villages and will also encourage business activity in the villages. To achieve a 100% target in different schemes, we have to focus on the new technology so that projects are completed faster and quality is also not compromised.
A provision of Rs 48,000 crore has been made for the PM Awas Yojana in this year’s budget. We will have to step up the pace to meet the target of building 80 lakh houses this year in the stipulated time. You are aware that today six lighthouse projects are underway using new technology for affordable housing in six cities of the country. A meaningful and serious discussion is necessary for solutions on how to use this type of technology for houses in villages and for the construction projects taking place in our eco-sensitive zones. Maintenance of roads in villages, hilly areas and the North East is also a big challenge. It is also very important to identify such material which can last for a long time according to the local geographical conditions.
We have set a target of providing about four crore (tap water) connections under the Jal Jeevan Mission. You will have to work harder to achieve this target. I also urge every state government to pay a lot of attention to the quality of water through the pipelines that are being laid. One of the goals of this scheme is also that people should have a sense of ownership at the village level and water governance should be reinforced. Keeping all these things in mind, we have to provide tap water to every household by 2024.
Digital connectivity of villages is no longer an aspiration but the need of the day. Broadband connectivity will not only provide facilities in the villages, but it will also help in creating a large pool of skilled youth in the villages. The country’s potential will increase further with the expansion of the service sector due to broadband connectivity in the villages. We have to identify any problems and find their solutions regarding optical fiber connectivity. It is equally important to spread awareness about quality and its proper use in villages where the work has been completed. The decision to bring 100 percent post offices into the core banking system is also a major step. This step will give impetus to the campaign of financial inclusion that we started with the Jan Dhan Yojana to reach saturation.
A major source of the rural economy is our mothers’ power, our women’s power. Financial inclusion has ensured greater participation of women in economic decisions in households. The participation of women through Self Help Groups needs to be expanded further. You will also have to step up your efforts to get more and more start-ups in rural areas.
We want to hear from you, want to know your experiences. How do we increase the capacity of our villages firstly from the point of view of governance? You think over it whether there has been any discussion at the village level by the government agencies which have some role in the development of villages by spending two-four hours with them. Being the Chief Minister of a state for a long time, I feel this is not our habit. One day somebody from the agriculture department will go, the second day somebody from the irrigation department, the third day the person from the health department and the fourth day the person from the education department will go and none will have any idea about each other. Can’t a day be earmarked when all the concerned agencies sit together with the people of the villages and the elected bodies of the villages? Today, money is not as much a problem for our villages as it is to eliminate our silos, to have convergence and take advantage of it.
Now you will question what the National Education Policy has to do with rural development. There is a topic in the National Education Policy that you should introduce the children to the local skills. You take a tour of the local areas. Can’t we identify the schools in that block of the vibrant border villages that we have envisioned and visit the last village and stay there for a couple of days with students of eighth, ninth and tenth standards? Vibrancy will start emanating by visiting the villages and looking at the trees and plants and the life of those people.
A child at the Tehsil level can go to the last border village by travelling 40-50-100 kilometers, can see the border as part of the education program, but it can be useful for our vibrant border villages. Can we develop such systems?
We can plan as many competitions at the tehsil level in the border villages. Automatically, there will be vibrancy. Similarly, an annual get-together can be planned in a village consisting of government employees and those who are retired and settled in villages and nearby areas and discuss the government pension or salaries. ‘This is my village. Though I have gone to a city for a job, let’s sit together and plan something for the village. We are in the government, know the government and plan something for the village.’ This is what a new strategy is all about. Did we ever contemplate to deciding a birthday celebration for a village? If the people of the villages come forward to hold a festival of 10-15 days and fulfill the needs of the villages, this association with the villages will enrich the villages as much as it will be with the budget. It will be even more than that with everyone’s efforts.
For example, we have Krishi Vigyan Kendras. Can we decide to introduce 50 farmers of a village comprising 200 farmers to natural farming as part of a new strategy? Most of the children from rural backgrounds come to study in agriculture universities. Have we ever visited these universities and shared the entire picture of rural development with the children? Can those who are a little educated and who go to villages during vacations share the government schemes with the people? Can we plan some strategy? We should understand that there is a need to emphasize the outcome more than the output in most of the states in India. Today a lot of money goes to the villages. We can change the situation of the villages if that money is utilized properly.
We can have a kind of Village Secretariat in the villages. Village Secretariat does not necessarily mean a building or a chamber. It can be any place where we can sit together and plan something about education. Similarly, the Government of India took up a program of aspirational districts. There has been such a wonderful experience that there is a competition among districts. Every district wants not to lag behind in the state. Many districts want to surpass the national average (of goals). You should decide on eight or ten parameters in your tehsil and there should be a competition every three months based on those parameters. After the results of the competition, you will come to know which village has outperformed in those parameters and which village is performing well. There can be the best village award at the state and national levels. Ten parameters can be decided at the tehsil level and then there should be a competition among 50-100-200 villages. Let’s see which village outperforms in those 10 parameters. You will see the change. When there will be recognition at the block level, the change will begin. Therefore, I say the budget is not an issue. Today we should strive for the outcome and change.
Can’t there be a tendency in the villages that no child will remain malnourished? I tell you that the people in villages will not bother about the budget of the government, but once they are determined, they will not allow any child to remain malnourished. Even today we have this ethos. If we decide that there will not be a single dropout in villages, you will see the people of the villages will associate themselves with this. We have seen that many leaders in villages, panchs and sarpanchs never visit village schools. On rare occasions do they visit village schools and that too on days when the national flag is unfurled! How can we develop this habit that this is my village and I must go there to provide leadership? The change won’t come if we simply issue a cheque, send some money or make a promise. At a time when we are celebrating 75 years of independence, can’t we realize some of the ideals of Mahatma Gandhi? Mahatma Gandhi has said that cleanliness, the soul of India, resides in the villages. Can’t we make this happen?
I am sure we can get the best results if the state governments, central government, local body organizations and all our departments decide to eliminate the silos and work together. We should work with the spirit of giving something back to the country on its 75 years of independence. You are going to discuss the entire day on how to make optimum utilization of each and every penny of the budget to bring about changes in villages. If we can do this, no citizen will be left behind. Our dreams will come true. I wish you all the very best!
(Excerpts from Prime Minister’s recent address at webinar on positive impact of Union Budget on rural development)